BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 13 September) — Protesters composed of Swiss, Filipinos and second-generation Filipinos staged a rally Saturday at the Swiss capital here against the Anti-Terror Law signed in July by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.
The rally organizers, Anakbayan Europa and Migrante, said this was the first of more protests in Switzerland and Europe against the law which they termed as “draconian.”
“In the face of problems facing OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in this pandemic, many are concerned about the slow lack of support for Filipinos overseas and those who have been repatriated. This way of raising grievances and protesting can be seen as an act of terrorism under the ATL,” said Anakbayan Switzerland in a flyer handed out at the rally site at the Bundesplatz or Parliament Square .
Anakbayan cited the case of Linn Ordidor, an OFW in Taiwan who was threatened with deportation to the Philippines for criticizing the government with online posts.
“For rightful criticism of the Duterte administration’s response (to the pandemic), the Philippine government even requested Taiwan to deport Ordidor. ..Linn was a victim of repression,” said the flyer.
“There is no need for a new anti-terror law because current laws such as the Human Security Act and the existing penal code already prosecute and punish anyone who commits so-called acts of terrorism,” said Anakbayan.
Jake Clemencio of Migrante Bern cited data on violations of civil and political rights under the Duterte government from the period July 2016 up to April 2020. “It is getting bloodier everyday with a brutal toll on human rights violations even in the middle of a deadly pandemic”, he said.
“The pandemic is being used to rationalize old and new forms of violations,” added Clemencio. He said that the terror law, meanwhile, “is a strategy to punish or eliminate all forms of dissent, opposition and protest.”
Monica Baumann, leader of a Swiss women’s support group in Bern, said their solidarity work with NGO partner groups in Mindanao has been affected, and said she fears the implementation of the anti-terror law will worsen it. She said their group has been red-tagged or linked with communist groups.
During the rally, protesters offered flowers for recent victims of violence in the Philippines and protested the killings of prominent anti-government activists like Jory Porquia, Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez.
A plan to march to the Philippine Embassy in Bern was scrapped at the request of Botschaftsschutz (embassy protection police) who were at the rally site.
A few pro-government or pro-Duterte supporters also showed up at the rally, but were prevented from disrupting the event. Mass events of up to 300 people — which can include political protests – have been allowed in Switzerland since June as long as protesters complied with social distancing and face mask requirements. (Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao City and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)